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Medford City Council will consider what should follow the mud

Gardeners are drawing up their spring planting lists, and so is City Hall.

The Medford City Council will consider spending up to &

36;200,000 to cover the 1-acre parcel surrounding the city offices when council members hold their regular noon meeting Thursday.

The money would come from some city employee positions that had been funded but unfilled, so it's already in the budget, according to city staff.

And with the seismic retrofitting project scheduled to be complete by the end of March, it's time to think beyond the mud.

Councilman Bob Strosser said he supports making the area around the City Hall look as it should look after the debris and disruption of the seismic retrofitting.

He acknowledged that in light of statewide cutbacks for social and public agencies, spending &

36;200,000 may look excessive to residents. He invites them to give feedback to the council.

We're not trying to be foolish or frivolous, he said. I think we need to do something with those grounds out there.

In the scheme of things, that's not a whole lot of money, said Deputy City Manager Jef Faw, adding that the first estimate the city received was double that amount.

Faw said that by eliminating most of the water- and labor-intensive lawn, the new landscape design will help reduce costs to the city in the long run.

The proposed plan includes some drought-resistant plants, like tall fescue grass, ornamental grasses, a smaller area of annual plantings, linden trees and some flowering trees, such as cherry and crabapple.

Overall we're trying to create a canopy to cool the hardscape (brick), said John Galbraith, landscape architect with Galbraith & Associates, who designed the plan. He also designed Vogel Plaza and Providence Medford Medical Center's Grotto.

It'll be much more open from the street, he said.

Greg Jones, interim parks and recreation director, said with half the grass area, smaller areas of water-intensive flower beds and a lot more trees, the plan would use about one-third the amount of water of the previous landscaping around City Hall.

Some of the sloped area will be terraced, which will help solve past run-off problems.

Jones said he hopes the City Hall project qualifies for a &

36;10,000 grant the Medford Water Commission offers to public agencies that implement water conservation plans.

The Medford Urban Renewal Agency is considering spending &

36;175,000 to improve the City Hall streetscape with new sidewalks, street lights and street trees. The streetscape would be along Oakdale Avenue, Eighth Street and Ivy Street.

Galbraith also is working on plans for a water fountain in front of the building.

Also under consideration is a new place of prominence for the city's 8&

189; -foot copper replica of the Statue of Liberty.

The statue, a gift to the city from the Crater Lake Council of Boy Scouts of America in 1951, had been on display in Hawthorne Park, but had been a target for vandals for years. Most recently the statue's arm had been broken off in July 2001 and was later found in a White City scrap yard. The statue was removed soon after and is awaiting a home.

Jones suggests placing the statue in the area between City Hall's flag posts, where it can be well lit and visible.

Faw said that after the seismic retrofitting is complete, the city is planning to pressure wash the building, clean the windows inside and out and do whatever landscaping design the council decides on.

There are several remaining trees, which Jones describes as unhealthy because they're held together with cables and bolts.

The trees around the City Hall are coming out, he said.

If the proposed plan is accepted, it could go to bid at the end of March and may take about five months to complete, said Faw.

It's going to be something that the city of Medford can be proud of for decades to come, he said.

What:

Medford City Council is scheduled to discuss financing of the proposed &

36;200,000 City Hall landscaping proposal.

When:

noon Thursday.

Where:

Council Chambers, Medford City Hall, 411 W. Eighth St., Medford.

The public is invited to attend and give input. Comments also may be e-mailed to cnclmed@ci.medford.or.us

Construction at Medford?s City Hall has taken its toll on the building?s landscaping. Crews have been retrofitting the building for earthquakes. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Mail Tribune Bob Pennell